Northern Ireland

Beef producers face "crisis", UK farming unions warn

A cow
Image caption Beef producers have seen the value of their cows decline by up to £115 a head.

All four main UK farming unions have called for measures to tackle what they say is a "crisis" for beef producers.

A sustained price drop since last autumn has seen the value of animals sent to the factory decline by up to £115 a head.

And this when the cost of things like feed and fertiliser has continued to rise due to sterling fluctuation.

Now the unions want a commitment from big supermarkets to stock more British beef.

And they've called for officials buying meat for government contracts to favour domestic product.

The call was issued in the name of all four UK farm unions, including the Ulster Farmers' Union.

"Sustainability of UK beef production is at stake here"

In their joint statement the unions said the beef sector was "at crisis point".

It said it accepted that it was a complex situation with different factors in play but farmers could not cope with the price cut any longer.

"Let's be absolutely clear - the sustainability of UK beef production is at stake here."

A range of reasons has helped depress the price paid to farmers.

They include reduced demand, increased supply within the EU and increased imports from outside of it.

The value of beef cuts not consumed here, and things like hides, have also fallen, affecting the overall price per animal.

The four main farming unions say there should be greater promotion of UK beef by retailers and processers to stimulate demand.

Retailers and the food service industry have been asked to mark the country of origin of their produce clearly.

And the government has been asked to look at the example in the Republic of Ireland, where beef farmers are to benefit from a 100m euro support package.

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